I have been so busy with work and family that I almost forgot about this blog, but now I’m back and I will try to update regularly (or not…). I could write about attending the awesome Casual Connect conference in Seattle, or about some of the games I’m designing at the moment, but for now I just want to round of my thesis. I finished it in June and got my candidatus – or master or whatever a five year university education it is called in English. My thesis (download) is named Playful Interaction after the concept it studies:
Playful interactions require effort and reward it with growth of the brain patterns (cognitive structures, mental models, schemas etc.) associated with the applied dexterous, mental and social skills.
Playful interactions are sources of emotion potentially making the user feel, for example, stimulated, challenged, curious, proud, frustrated, confused or sad.
I split the concept into three main categories that can be applied to different parts of a game:
Playful selection (adding game mechanics or extra activities to menus) trains playerâ€™s skill in using the gameâ€™s game mechanics, inspires curiosity and prevents boredom.
Playful activation (mini-games and control challenges) removes trivial interactions at a low level and enriches the game with new game mechanics or new uses of existing mechanics. Also keeps the player attention high.
Playful guidance (providing help through discovery and challenge) provides help when and where it is needed and lets the player figure it out herself. Also, instructions are received when in a positive mood.
The main goal of playful interaction is simply to strengthen the user experience by doing things a little differently. The enjoyment and pleasure of playing a game comes from the way in which it slowly grows the patterns in our mind, and adding little mental, dexterous or social challenges to the parts of the game that is usually not very game-like (like menus, activation actions and guidance sequences) can expand this pleasure to new parts of the game. The central game mechanics might be the most important, but the rest of the package need not be boring either.